Social Security Disability: What it Is and When You Should Apply for Benefits

You were worried that your injury was going to keep you out of work, and now your doctor has confirmed your fears: you’re not going to be able to go back to your job anytime soon. You don’t want to rely on your family members to pay for your every need, but you can’t earn a living while being in constant pain. You’ve heard that Social Security offers injury payments, but will they be enough to cover your medical bills and housing costs—and do you even qualify?

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Security disability (SSD) is called "insurance" because workers have already paid for it in the form of taxes. Employees contribute to the Social Security fund when they pay FICA Social Security tax during their years of employment, and if they are injured, they are able to collect from this fund.

Who Can Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

Although you may have a condition that prevents you from working, you do not automatically qualify to receive Social Security disability benefits. To be eligible, workers must:

  • Have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will perform two tests to see if you have paid enough into the disability fund during your years of employment: a “recent work” test to find out how recently you have contributed to the fund, and a “duration of work” test discover how long you have paid into Social Security.

  • Meet Social Security's definition of disability. The SSA is designed to provide for those who are in the greatest need of benefits. If your medical condition is considered a partial disability or is not expected to prevent you from working for at least a year, you will likely be unable to receive payments.

  • Be unable to work. If you are granted disability benefits, they will be discontinued when your condition improves and you are able to earn a regular living.

  • Be under age 65. There are special rules concerning older workers who become disabled. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach 65, your disability benefits will be converted to retirement benefits, although the amount is usually the same.

Although only adults over age 18 can claim Social Security disability benefits, a disabled worker's spouse and dependents may be able to receive additional benefits to help pay for costs of living.

How Soon Can I Get My Social Security Payments?

Unfortunately, it takes at least five months from the date of your disability to receive your first benefit payment, so it is important to file an application for benefits as soon as you know that your condition will last for a year or longer. In addition, many applications are denied the first time due to incomplete information, or because the SSA did not have enough medical evidence to determine how a condition affects a person’s daily life.

To be sure your benefit application is free or errors before you send it in, read through our guide, 5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Case. Click the link on this page to begin reading, or contact one of our local Omaha disability attorneys today at 402-933-5405.

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska